The snow wouldn’t quit but it was Matt’s birthday and we’d promised him dinner out. We should have known better—around Lake Tahoe anyway.
Talk about white-knuckle driving. We inched along the highway wondering if we’d skid into the car in front of us before the one in back skidded into us. To make matters worse, there’d been a foul-up at the car rental place and we didn’t have a four-wheel drive car. I was never so cavalier about winter driving conditions again.
Millions of you will be facing winter driving hazards as a part of your vacation adventure—with squabbling kids hampering your concentration. Many of you will be especially on edge since you’re flying in from places like Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Dallas where you never see a snow flake, much less drive in a blinding snow storm.
The biggest mistake we out-of-town tourists make in snow country? We drive too fast, the experts say. That means allow double or more distance from the car in front of you than otherwise. SLOW DOWN! Decreasing the speed will give you more reaction time, especially on a mountain road.
Don’t overestimate the capability of four-wheel drive vehicles and anti-lock brake systems, either. If you’re going too fast, even anti-lock brakes won’t keep you on the road.
And don’t overheat the car. Cool air not only makes you more alert but also will keep the windows clear of frost.
Here are some other Winter Family Driving Smarts from AAA:
- Insist that all kids 12 and under sit in the back, securely buckled in seat belts or safety seats. Never put a child in a safety seat in the front. Airbags can cause serious injury or even death.
- Always have water bottles and snacks—including a few treats—easily accessible. You never know when you’ll get stuck on the road longer than you expect.
- In a skid, ease off the accelerator and carefully steer in the direction you want to go, AAA says. Watch out for other drivers who may not be prepared for the road conditions.
- Be prepared in case you get stranded. Bring along a cell phone and adapter so you can plug it in to the cigarette lighter of the car. Tie a brightly colored cloth around the antenna to signal distress and make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged. Blockage could cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Your emergency kit (ask your rental car agency if they supply these) should include jumper cables, flashlight with fresh batteries (there’s nothing worse than a dead one when you need it most) first-aid kit, ice scraper, roll of paper towels and if possible, a small shovel. Stop and buy a bag of salt or sand at a gas station before you get going.
- Stash blankets, extra warm clothes, food, water and any needed medication in the car, too. Pillows from home will make the kids more comfortable, too.
- Stay with the car if you’re unexpectedly snowbound. Never try to walk in a bad storm. It’s too easy to get lost.
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